• Tag Archives Teijinar
  • Xinjiang-Qinghai trip May 2017: Highlights. Part 2 (Level of difficulty: 4 in a scale of 5)

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    This is the second part of the itinerary. I was planning to visit the Altun mountains natural reserve, but I have checked with a Chinese company who organized trips there, but they told me that the high price of the permit made the tour impossible to maintain. By the way, and as usual, there is no way to know the price of something in China. It is not published, it depends on the moment, on the need to buy or sell… so, for the moment things are complicated enough, and we will not see the hemiones nor the savage yaks.

    Supposing that we are able to cross the Altun mountains pass, and we arrive to the Qaidam basin,(which may happen or not, it seems that summer is more complicated due flows caused by snow melting), there is a decision to be taken… either going South through Teijinar and Golmud, and from there going by train to Delingha (or Ulan), or skip Golmud and Teijinar altogether, and from Da Qaidam Zhen find a bus to Delingha.

    It is a decision that cannot be taken right now, but it is worthwhile to try to find a driver, to know possibilities and budget.

    Assuming that we do not find a driver, our options depend on what we find as transportation to the Qaidam basin. Once there we depend on what we find there, either due East, and Da Qaidam Zhen, or South and Golmud.

    So itinerary would be

    Sunday 21, Charkilik to Mangnai (240 Km) by minibus (?)

    Monday 22, Mangnai to Da Qaidam Zen (260 Km) by … bus? minibus?

    Tuesday 23, Da Qaidam Zen to Golmud (233 Km) by bus (we are now on the Trans Desert Highway, from Urumqi to Golmud)

    Wednesday 24 Golmud – Delingha (320 Km) by train


    Thursday 23, Da Qaidam Zen to Delingha (250 Km.) by bus. If there are bus to do it, we would skip Golmud, but follow the Railway line, so, if we do not find transportation, probably we may buy train tickets to go to Xining (although in China one never knows…)

    Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25. Rest in Delingha, preparing for the last stretch. Gentlemen, start your engines!

    Friday 26: Delingha to Ulan (105 Km) by bus or train

    Saturday 27: Ulan to Jianxigou (220 Km), by bus, on the shores of Qinghai lake. It seems that there are almost no cities in there, but there are villages (and probably some places to sleep=

    Sunday 28: rest in Jianxigou. Visit to the lake.

    Monday 29: Jianxigou-Xining (130 Km)

    Tuesday May 30, End of the trip

    If anyone needs to shorten the trip, or it is fed up of his/her travel companions, there is an exit way from Golmud, with a direct train to Xining

    Altun Natural Reserve

    Should you be interested in receiving the itinerary in Google Earth format, or any other information, please, use the contact form

  • Where in hell is the Boron Kol?

    qiemoYes, rivers flow in the desert and became lost in the sands. In China, where everything is bigger than in Texas, even lakes do this.

    As we have already seen, Kini and Peter were in Teijinar were they meet Borodishin, and with his help they departed southbound towards a high mountain pass in the Altun mountains, following the “Gorges du Boron Kol”.

    But, when we look for it in the Gizi map, this river does not exist. A Google search does not give an answer for the Boron Kol, nor the USA military Index of Geographical names.

    Has the Boron Kol disappeared, swallowed in the sands? Did it ever exist? This is not strange in an area where not only rivers, but also lakes disappear. A full lake, the Lop Nor, with historical existence, with a big city (Lou-Lan) on its shores was not there when Sven Hedin passed by… only to reappear 30 year later. As soon as Sven hear about the mysterious lake comeback, he bought a kayak in Beijing (!), added it to his expedition gear (I imagine from here the comments of his camel master – it should be difficult to put anything as long as a small kayak in the humped back of a camel), and here he goes, with the camel train (those were men, anyway!) and the kayak protruding, to have the photo taken… but I will go back to the “Wandering Lake” history, and the Beauty of Loulan, 0016eca4c78f098e542212 a blond-haired mummy found nearby, just keep posted!.

    There is no Boron Kol to be found, but from Tajinar a river flows due South, pass some gorges (their caravan goes through the gorges on the afternoon of the second day, more or less 50 km away from their departure point, and the gorges on the map are 60 Km from Urt Moron ), and then takes a NW-SE course, exactly what Peter says. So, the Boron Kol is the Narim Gol!

    And Issyk Pakthe was (or is ) in the Altun Mountain Natural Reserve areas near the Ayyakum Hu lake.

    We are on their tracks! The map is centered in Cherchen, Issik Pakthe is on the North shore of the central lake due East


    Photos: Lost river in the Sands (near Cherchen)
    Sven Hedin on his Kayak
    Last Photo: Altun Mountains
    Feature Image: Ayyakum Hu
    (all photos from the Internet)

  • Salgari in the Ayyak Kum Kul

    boron kol_10“Aujourd’hui, 15 Novembre, nous partons vers l’inconnu, vers le Sud”

    “Today, November 15, we depart towards the unknown, Southbound”. And this is how Ella starts one of the best passages of her book, a description that may fit in any Salgari’s or Verne’s book, with snow storms, sick horses, narrow river gorges, lost water springs… with of course, some tongue-in-cheek (or not) romantic moments: “Should I write a best-seller, it is now or never that the two heroes of my history, thrilled and grateful, would fall in one other’s arms, after having saved themselves from poisonous food or fatal fogs” says Ella.

    And, the couch traveller wonders the exact place of these adventures… where were the Boron Kol Gorges, and Issyk Pakte, and the Ayyagkum Koul (or Ayak Kum Kul)?

    Well, let us try to follow their path, until they reach Issik Pakte where Boro has friends. He will return from there “to his isolated yurt in the Tsaidam” and Peter and Niki will continue their journey towards Cherchen.

    So, here I am, sitting on a couch, my laptop on my lap, three or four books about the area, a 1:2.000.000 map that I recommend: “Gizi Map Series China 5”, labelled “Tibet Autonomous Region”, and, of course, Google Earth, centered in Xi Taijnar Hu, which means East Lake of Taijnar. Of course, there is no lake there…

    Google Earth is fine to find what you know that must be there, but it is not the right tool to navigate, it’s continuous change of scale make almost impossible to see the whole picture. So we take the Gizi map, we locate Teijnar (D-20), from Kini and Peter maps we know that they reach Tchertchen (Qiemo, C-12) and they avoid Charkilik (C-15) on an almost straight path. They must avoid the Mangnai Zhen pass, so they depart due South (Kini) or Southwest (Peter), following the Boron Kol river upstream.

    But… where does the Boron Kol flow?… does this river even exists?


    Photos: Caravan in the Boron Kol Valley (Ella Maillard)
    Others: From the Internet

  • If Gorumu is Golmud, where is Teijinar?

    10735402_288687784671317_111488443_aKini and Peter are near Teijinar, but Kini writes it Teidjinar, with the keen interest of the cultivated French to show that the “orthographe” lacks secrets for them. Why, for God’s sake, Ella wrote this silent -d- in the middle of the word?.

    Anyhow, we know that on April 28 they were at Gorumu… so, let us Google “Gorumu”, and we find hundreds of thousands references, because a Goromu is “a creature that comes in different shapes and sizes”. And Gorumu Qinghai, or Gorumu China does not give anything (well, on a blog there is a reference to Peter’s text).

    But as we have arrived there plotting the route, stage by stage, bivouac by bivouac, we know that they arrive not to Gorumu, but to Golmud from Nomo Kanthara. And searching in a map, we see that Golmud is also called Kermo. Because in this area places have two (or even three) names, the Han (Chinese) name, the Mongol name and the Uighur name. But, of course, this is only the beginning.

    BauerBecause the spelling changes too… the old “Pekin” became Beijing not so long away when, in 1949, Chinese authorities decided to use the pinyin for the transliteration of Chinese to Western Alphabet. But, old names remain, for instance airport codes (IATA) for Beijing is PEK, and for Guangzhou is CAN, the old Canton of the Opium wars.

    And Ella and Peter try a phonetical transliteration that produces funny results, because Ella, who writes in French, uses French phonetics, while Peter English phonetics. So, the Borodishin yurts are at a place called Arakshatu by Peter and Arakshatou by Kini

    Minor worries? Arakshatu is 2 hour march away from Teijinar. And where is Teijinar? Well, on a 1.200.000 map (yes, not Google Earth, nor a complex Geographical name database, but on an old-fashioned, printed map), we find, NW of Golmud, two lakes, “Dong Taijnar Hu” and “Xi Taijnar Hu”. As we know that Dong means West and Xi means East, and Hu means lake, and the two lakes are on a WE line, we are all set. We have found Teijinar, or Teidjinar, 160 km NW of Golmud.

    But Teijinar is not a city, it is an oasis, and rather large one.

    And Borodishin was at Arakshatu, two hour walk away heading west. But from where?

    Where in the hell is Arakshatu? The problem may seem minor but this lack of certitude will make very complex the plotting of  the 10 day march from there to Issik Pakte (Issyk Pakté for Kini, of course, why use “i” when you can use “y”?)



    Featured image: Ruta 5, near Atacama, Chile, from the author

    Gorumu from the internet

    Caravan from Ella Maillard Book, it is their caravan on the journey Arakshatu – Issyk Pakté

  • And the Oscar to best supporting actor goes to: Borodishin

    Qinghai-Hexi-Corridor--Tsaidam-Basin-6-Gobi--DesertBorodishin, or Borodichine as Ella calls him is the best performing actor in our history. Boro was sergeant in the Russian white army under General Annenkov, who entered China with his decimated troops. After staying with him in the Sinkiang, he decided not to follow him further away (it was a good move, as Annenkov was betrayed by a Chinese warlord Feng Yu-Hsiang, known as the “betrayal general” and also the “Christian general” – I hope that the two appellatives are not related -. Feng returned Annenkov to the Russians, who shot him). They split, and while Annenkov left the Sinking to meet his fate, Borodishin joined the Smigounovs in the Tsaidam.

    Two years later, the Smigs left Teijinar with Narim, due to the complex situation of the region, while Borodishin remained in Tsaidam. Was it because he was “on the hills, buying yak’s tails” – as Peter says -, when they departed, and nobody told him? Did he find the Smigs yurt empty when he returned of his journey?

    I prefer to think that he stayed in the Qaidam waiting for his wife and his children from who he had lost contact. His letters became abruptly unanswered when his family was already traveling towards the frontier to meet him. Did Boro stayed in the Tsaidam expecting their arrival, knowing if they finally arrive to Teijinar, and he had departed, it will be impossible that they meet again? Probably, as Peter says

    He still yearned for them, still (sometimes) had hopes he would see them again


    We were the first Europeans he has seen for two years; his was a terribly desolate life. With us he was always cheerful, or at any rate tranquil; but you had an awful feeling that maybe his heart was broking slowly

    Boro recommends them to avoid the main road, and follow an almost forgotten, barely negotiable path. They will find no guides for this region, and he proposes to go with them until they reach Issik Pakte, twelve marches towards the West. He cannot go further because he had no papers of any sort. And Boro helps them to buy four camels, and to get all the supplies for the march, which is not easy because people in the oasis have an economy of subsistence. They have almost nothing to trade. Boro must travel long distances (people live dispersed) to complete the stock they need.

    During the eight days while Boro organizes their departure, Peter and Kini live a relaxed life in the luxurious yurt of the Smigs. Reading, hunting, waiting. Peter killed an antelope, from which she made shashlik on the cleaning rod of the rifle (this is strange, nobody made shashlik there? there had no other metal rod?).

    The next day at noon, when the trio Ella, Peter and Boro departed towards Issik Pakte, no Mongol went with them.

    Boro was a good fellow, cheerful and a good companion (a “brave homme”, as Kini says)

    After something like two weeks they arrived to Issik Pakte, enduring snow storms, being lost without water, and eating samba with melted mutton fat and a little Worcestershire sauce. Once there, Borodishin negotiated with two Turki to guide them through the 12 stages needed to reach Cherchen, and helped them to trade Greys, Peter’s horse, for a young mare, “more amphibian than equine”

    And finally, after two days, they parted. Borodishin,

    At dawn he left with the Mongol, riding back along the way we had come, hunched on his camel, eternally sucking at his long Chinese pipe, his sad loyal eyes staring across the empty lands before him. As I watched him go I tried not to think in the two grubby yurts at Teijinar, were the redshanks called and he and Wang Sun-Lin took it in turns to go it and fetch fuel, and nothing ever happened

    Two years later, he was murdered by bandits. Probably he felt relieved


    Photo credits: from the Internet

  • Leaving Dzoun for Nomo Khantara, or jumping from the pan into the fire

    potd-camel_3349231kThe back of our heroes was against the wall in Nomo Khantara.

    Ella and Peter after a four day rest in Dzoun had left for Teijinar (at least, they thought so), ten camel stage away, or 300 km. With them goes their helper, interpreter and somehow friend, Li, and the camel master, an unnamed mongol. At the end of the first stage after Dzoun they learn that the four camels, already weakened because they are moulting (it is well known issue with camels), will not go further than Nomo Kanthara, two stages away, and as a consequence, they will need to hire another set of animals. And they learn also that it will be difficult to find camels, because summer arrives and the herds are already grazing in some remote pastures.

    When they reach Nomo Khantara, they find someone they knew from the caravan of the Prince of Dzoun, who had already arrived; this guy, the chief of the gold diggers, had left Dzoun earlier, with the aim to overtake Peter and Ella at the Hertz camel shop at Nomo Khantara. Anyway, nobody got camels, nor the gold digger, nor Peter, nor two very holy lamas that were waiting for two weeks already. And if the very holy lamas do not get camels, nobody can get them in the whole Sinkiang.

    And Li says that he will not continue to Teijinar oasis, because they are already in Teijinar, Nomo Khantara being the first oasis belonging to Teijinar. The fact that they have hired Li to go with them until Teijinar does not bother him, and I suspect that Li hired the camels in Dzoun to go to Nomo Kanthara. He did not need going further, as Nomo Kanthara was his home.

    And the child of one gold digger was lost in the desert.

    And mosquitoes did appear.

    They were in deep shit.

    2011-01-09 at 11-51-11

    Photo credits

    Camel moulting from Internet

    Author: Somewhere in South Africa, and view of the Andes